HomeOpinionOPINION: Going to the mountains is better with the family

OPINION: Going to the mountains is better with the family

By Todd E. Brady

Guest columnist

Attending a conference recently in the souvenir-saturated city of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I was glaringly reminded of our society’s passionate obsession with consumerism.

Since I had always heard about the tremendously oversized convenience store, I stopped at Buc-ee’s in Crossville on my way.  With painted arrows on the concrete, I made my way around the 120 gas pumps and found a parking place among the sea of cars.  For a minute, I thought a Disneyesque trolley would come pick me up in the parking lot to take me to the store entrance.

Walking past signs that promoted entry level jobs starting at $17-22 an hour, I entered the 53,400 square foot travel center.  I wasn’t hungry and didn’t need anything, but like the effect of the Sirens songs luring sailors to their doom, I had an inexplicable longing to purchase something…anything.  People were shoulder to shoulder.  It was like a Christmas shopping crowd.  Everyone was walking around with unnecessary goodies in their hands on their way to the check out counter.  Inside Buc-ee’s, the philosophy, is “I buy, therefore I am.

The options were outrageously overabundant.  In addition to it’s “signature one-stop shop for Texas barbecue,” there was homemade fudge, homemade pastries, a smorgasbord of different flavors of beef jerky, aisles and aisles of potato chips, all kinds of candies, hundreds of t-shirts, gobs of trinkets, and more stuff than you could ever imagine.  Of course, there were their “famously clean restrooms.”

Going further east, I passed a soon-to-open, 75,000 square foot Buc-ee’s sitting on a 200 acre development in Sevierville. This will be the world’s largest convenience store and will have a 250 foot-long car wash.  I guess the only thing better than convenience is more convenience.

I drove into Pigeon Forge and was barraged with billboards and lights wooing me to come to restaurants with humongous signs inviting me to eat all I could eat.  Flashing lights beckoned me to visit wax museums, take Old Timey photos, ride go-karts, fly in a helicopter, swing on Zip-lines, walk in upside-down buildings, play mini golf, shop for Christmas ornaments, and eat corn dogs, flapjacks, and ice cream.  I think I know how John Bunyan’s Christian felt as he walked through Vanity Fair.

Pigeon Forge is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains.  The natural beauty of this part of the state can be eclipsed by many man-made amusements there.  A water park in one place is called “Soaky Mountain.”  Get it?  A smoke and vape shop on a strip is called “Holy Smoky” Get it?  Maybe all this cheesy commercialism is why some have called Pigeon Forge “Panama City Beach in the Mountains.”

Out of America’s 62 National Parks, the Smokey Mountains is the most visited park in the country.  Last year, nearly 13 million people came to the Smokies.  In 2021, there were more than 14 million visitors.

Millions of people have made memories in those mountains.  For some moms, dad, kids, and grandparents, the pilgrimage to Pigeon Forge is an every-summer-experience.

I’m not sure If I’ll get to go back this summer or not, but one thing I learned while at the conference in Pigeon Forge by myself—Going to the Mountains is a lot more fun with the family. 

Todd E. Brady is vice president for university ministries at Union University. Write to him at 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson TN 38305.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments